Small Business Start-Up Checklist – Planning Your Business

Small business owners often overlook the value of taking the time to write a comprehensive business plan at start-up. At first glance, it can seem like a daunting task but there are a number of reasons why it is worth the effort. A bank or venture capitalist will likely require that they see a detailed business plan before lending you any money, to make sure that you are a safe investment. A plan will also give you clear objectives to strive towards and you can use it as a kind of ‘roadmap’ to refer back to during troubled times.  

Things to remember:  

The business plan has a number of essential steps:  

  • Executive Summary – the first section of your plan, but should be the very last thing you write. This is because it will serve as a summary of the rest of the plan, so that a prospective reader will know whether they should keep reading. The summary should be very brief.
  • Market Analysis – a description of the industry you will be entering, information on your proposed target market and the results of any market testing you have conducted. There should also be some data about your major competition.
  • Company Description – detailed information about all the elements of your business, including the factors that will help make it a success.
  • Organisational Information – this should contain data about your company structure and management team.
  • Marketing Strategy – a description of the type of strategy you will adopt. This will include how you plan to initially penetrate the market and how you will distribute the product. In addition it will state how you will communicate with your target audience and how you propose that the business will grow in the future.
  • Product or Service – you are now ready to talk about your product or service. The benefits of it must be stressed here, along with any patents or research & development activity. Realistically evaluate your product life cycle.
  • Funding – this is the part where you ask an investor for money. Make sure that you can justify the amounts requested and make it clear the timeframe in which they will begin to receive a return on investment.
  • Financial Data – these are the figures which will back up your request for money. This should include realistic forecasting and projections – investors or banks will be able to tell if your predictions are wildly inaccurate.
  • Appendix – this will include statistical data that will be provided on an as-needed basis. For example, you may not want every person who reads your plan to know your credit history but a potential lender will likely demand it. You can place data like this (resumes, legal documents, leases, studies etc.) in the appendix and only give it to the serious investors.
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